Discovering the Medieval District of Bergen

Last winter, when visiting the Norwegian city of Bergen, we decided to take the sea route to the city. Travelling by ferry allowed us to experience the majestic fjords enroute to Bergen. Of course this meant the journey took a few hours more than it would have otherwise. But after an endless spell of mountains and blue-green waters, the first glimpse of Bergen was stunning, to say the least. The city rose with a row of wooden structures. This was the famed medieval district of Bryggen.


Over the next two days, I spent a lot of time in the narrow lanes of Bryggen. This medieval settlement has stood its ground for over 900 years now. This row of sixty-one colourful, lopsided wooden buildings is spread across 13, 000 square meters, with the oldest dating back to the 15th century.

It is best to take a guided tour of the district to learn the stories and history behind these fascinating structures and narrow alleyways. The wooden windows, hanging balconies, shared passages, over beams and stairway, all seem to be from another lifetime. Given the wooden construction, it isn’t surprising that a number of fires have ravaged the district, the worst of which broke out in 1702. The entire settlement was lost in that fire, save for two stone cellars. As a result of the fires, only a quarter of the original construction has survived.


Bryggen was once the head quarters of the influential Hanseatic Trading League. The rooms here served as offices and lodgings for the League. Today they function as souvenir stores and quirky pubs. Bryggen also houses a number of museums, the most interesting of which is the Hanseatic Museum, a display of everyday living conditions of that time.

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